What is in this article?:
- Solar power spreads in agriculture
- Water depth
Windmills have long been the traditional source of pulling water from wells at remote agricultural outposts, but now, solar panels may be popping up in place of these icons of the American West.
“The depth of water in the state is all over the scale, anywhere from 10 to 1,000 feet,” said Craig Runyan, associate in Extension Plant Services. “Four hundred feet is pushing the limit for solar, but technology is catching up fast. There are a lot of wells 600-700 feet deep on the eastern side of the state. It’s not unreasonable for a conventional windmill to lift water down 700 feet, but it takes quite a while. It really depends on how much flow you need.”
At the same time, fellow engineering technology students Lloyd Vigil and Christian Garces were working to develop a spreadsheet tool that could be used by potential clientele of solar water pump systems.
“Users can enter information about the depth of their well, if it will be used for livestock and what type of livestock. The system will recommend a hardware layout for their given application,” said Ricketts. “The spreadsheet will recommend the volume of water needed, how much storage will be needed as reserve for cloudy days, how many panels will be needed, pump and pipe size.”
The spreadsheet also has an economic component that will help estimate how much a system might cost.
While the market is pretty evenly split between wind and solar used to draw water from wells in New Mexico, said Runyan, producers are all looking for alternatives to the high cost of fuel.
“It’s really a personal preference. Wind and solar are cost competitive, but solar may be safer and easier to work with—nobody likes climbing towers. And while wind mills are capable of producing more water, the sun is more consistent and you may end up with more water if you can store it,” said Runyan.
These projects and the development of other engineering-based educational materials arose after the Cooperative Extension Service surveyed their officers serving the state’s 33 counties about what kind of engineering assistance is needed by their clientele. The response was alternative sources of energy technology that would help them address the challenges associated with the availability of water.
“It’s a great avenue for us to help fulfill an increasing need of our clientele,” said Jon Boren, associate dean and assistant director of the Cooperative Extension Service. “Using expertise from the College of Engineering for alternative energy technologies, Extension has the network to deliver new choices to our clientele. We have an extensive network and the College of Engineering has the expertise.”